Life on the ‘Dangerous and Condemned’ list

THIS IS AN E-MAIL LETTER THAT I JUST SENT TO HELEN BROUGHTON AND LAWRENCE JACKSON, at B-SEED (Buildings, Structures, Engineering, and Environment Dept.), City of Detroit; they are the ones who do inspections, and who order demolitions.

Lawrence Jackson

Dear Ms. Broughton and Mr. Jackson:

Yesterday, Friday July 18, 2014, I spoke with Mr. Jackson in person while he was working in my neighborhood, (Gateway Community), on Harmon Street. Indeed, he explained that he was the person who put the orange ‘Dangerous/Condemned’ sticker on the burnt house next door at 513 Harmon Street, last week – this is the property that I first contacted you about, and to which you have responded so professionally and efficiently. Thank you very much for that.

However, in further discussing 513 Harmon, Mr. Jackson said that he also ‘reported’ to B-SEED that my house at 519 Harmon, as well as the adjacent vacant house (507? Harmon), which was also damaged from the fire at 513 Harmon last year, both houses should also have orange ‘Dangerous/Condemned’ stickers, and thus be on road to demolition, as they are open to the elements and to trespassing.

So, even though Mr. Jackson was kind enough to speak with me at length about the ‘Dangerous/Condemned’ then Demolition process, I am still of course concerned that I am now the owner of a condemned house. When I purchased my house from the City’s ‘First-come Sales Bid List’ from the Planning and Development Department (which is no more, replaced by the Land Bank), I was told, and have it in writing, that I have a year to bring the three systems of the house (roofing, HVAC, and plumbing) into alignment with City standards in order to get inspected to get my ‘C-of-O.’

Mr. Jackson said that I would get a letter from the City asking me to board up my house, or get fined. He also explained that my ‘house would not be demo-ed’ because I am in the process of trying to restore it. He also suggested that I could come to the City Council meeting wherein the 513 Harmon Street burnt house will be voted to demolition, and ‘raise my hand’ and ask if I could swap my house for another house on Harmon, this one across the street at the Corner of Brush and Harmon, which he has now also recommended for the Dangerous/Condemned/To be Demolished list.

But instead, I was wondering if there might be yet another option, as my house at 519 Harmon is surely not in the best condition and may not be worth restoring. This is my idea/proposal:

That the City demolish my house using the funding granted to the Land Bank;

That I retain ownership of the land/property;

That I renovate and move into the other structure on the property: the garage.

The Garage is approximately the size of a small cottage or cabin (900 sq. feet); it is a single-story, wood frame building, with a gabled roof in very good shape; it has three windows, a traditional door and double-wide doors for a vehicle to enter; it still has extant electrical wiring in working shape; it has a concrete floor; it shows no water or fire damage. It would need to be plumbed for both a bath and a kitchenette. I would install a small furnace or modern wood burning stove with fan to project heat; I would insulate and cover the walls; I would install new locks on the doors and fasten the double doors to be stationary. I would use the remaining front land for a yard and garden.


I realize that this is an unusual request, but if The City of Detroit really wants neighborhoods restored and populated, then the priority should be about PEOPLE, and not about the nature of the structures in which they live. The City should accept creative solutions to the problem of getting people to move back into the City. By focusing my renovation on the garage, I can begin to live at 519 Harmon sooner, safer, and without such high cost. As Mayor Duggan and the City’s website say, ‘Neighbors wanted’ – well, here I am. Let me fix up and occupy my garage as cottage; you can still tax me at the purchase price of $1,018.00; I will still pay your inspection fees. You won’t lose any money and you won’t lose a resident.

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